WASHINGTON (April 11, 2018)—An Interior Department inspector general report shows that political appointees reassigned senior staff without justification. These actions amount to a political purge of career professionals, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
Below is a statement by Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS.
“The decision to reassign highly qualified Interior professional staff is not defensible—and we know because the department’s political leadership has made no attempt to defend it. There’s no paper trail and no justification given, and it appears that the decision was made entirely by political appointees. The reassignments undermine the department’s work and discriminate against women and Native American staff.
“This goes beyond mere incompetence. It’s absolutely unacceptable for political appointees to take this action without leaving a public record or any attempt to explain why dedicated public servants are being treated this way.
“This is all happening on Secretary Zinke’s watch. It’s his responsibility to make sure his department is effective and that its decisions are made in the public’s best interest. Clearly, that’s not what’s happening here. In addition to these reassignments, Zinke has disbanded advisory boards and cancelled research studies. Just as Scott Pruitt has done at the EPA, Zinke is moving quickly to eliminate independent voices and potential threats to his political agenda. He’s treating the Interior Department like his own personal fiefdom.
“The inspector general’s recommendations are important for the future of the department, but we need more answers about why this happened. Congress must call Associate Deputy Secretary Jim Cason and other political appointees to testify in a public hearing and get the facts.
“It’s incidents like these that are the reason UCS is focused on protecting federal scientists. Joel Clement, one of the Interior scientists pushed out of his job, has joined UCS as a fellow. We’ve surveyed federal scientists about the environment inside their agencies and we’ve launched a Science Protection Project to provide resources and support for federal employees who see misconduct on the job. If Secretary Zinke fears independent science and public scrutiny so much, that makes it even more important to hold him accountable.”